PURA fines Frontier $2.5 million for performance deficiencies

PURA Chair Marissa Gillett
ARCHIVE PHOTO: PURA Chair Marissa Gillett Loan: Christine Stuart / Archive photo / CTNewsJunkie

On Wednesday, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority issued a notice of infringement and fined Frontier Communications $2.5 million, citing deficiencies in service quality standards.

Three PURA commissioners voted unanimously to issue the notice and impose the fines at Wednesday’s meeting.

PURA also found in its notice that Frontier failed to timely submit exception reports when its performance with respect to one or more standards did not meet the minimum requirements for three consecutive months.

“Specifically, in 16 instances from 2015 through 2023, after the Company failed to meet at least one service quality standard for three consecutive months, Frontier failed to file exception reports explaining the failure to meet the minimum standards in its entirety,” according to the notice. “As a result, Frontier failed to file 16 required exception reports for the three-month periods in which Frontier did not meet the minimum standards, and these reports were cumulatively late for 8,811 days as of December 31, 2023.”

The state Office of the Consumer Commissioner (OCC) filed a petition in January alleging that Frontier Communications failed to meet mandatory minimum service standards for repairing and maintaining defective devices from Jan. 1, 2015, through June 30, 2023.

According to the OCC petition, Frontier was out of compliance with the Maintenance Appointments Met standard 30 out of 96 months, or 31 percent of the time. For the Out of Service Repair Cleared Within 24 Hours standard, OCC found Frontier was out of compliance 44 out of 96 months, or 46 percent of the time. In the Capitol Region, Frontier was out of compliance with the Maintenance Appointments Met standard 37 out of 96 months, or 39 percent of the time, and was out of compliance with the OOS Repair standard 48 out of 96 months, or 50 percent of the time.

The OCC said in the petition that its information is based on data from Frontier’s semi-annual quality of service reports.

“QoS are rooted in Connecticut state law because of critical public safety concerns. Connecticut residents rely on certified telecommunications providers to connect them with emergency services, medical personnel, employers and other essential contacts,” the petition reads. “In other words, these standards exist to protect public health, safety and basic everyday needs. The QoS that PURA enforces require telecommunications providers to properly maintain their networks, ensuring that when a resident picks up the phone to make an urgent call, they hear a dial tone and are connected.”

In a May 2024 response on behalf of Frontier, attorney Timothy P. Jensen writes that Frontier, since acquiring The Southern New England Telephone Company in 2014, has consistently met its service quality commitments for all but two of the regulatory metrics implemented in 2000.

One factor, according to Jensen’s response, is that some customers still rely on plain old telephone service (POT), a voice-grade telephone service that uses analog signal transmissions over physical copper wires. Jensen writes that the number of POT access lines supported by SNET has declined by more than 74% over the past 10 years.

Jensen writes that Frontier’s performance in measuring customer service incidents when customers are offline has been “consistently excellent.”

“In other words, this metric shows whether the network is in overall good health—the fewer reports of problems, the more evidence that the network is strong,” according to the response. “Frontier has met this metric every month and every year since acquiring SNET. This is not surprising, given that Frontier has been investing in Connecticut since 2015 and continues to do so by spending millions of dollars to expand fiber broadband access across the state.”

Jensen writes that while there have been issues meeting two of the metrics outlined in the OCC petition, Frontier’s performance has been trending upward, “yet its performance on these metrics since 2015 has averaged 91.45% (MAP) and 87.15% (OOS) compared to the regulatory standard of 90%.

Pursuant to the PURA decision, Frontier was ordered to pay $2,356,950 to Operation Fuel, Inc. to provide financial assistance to struggling customers.